The Oxford Companion to Irish History

By S. J. Connolly | Go to book overview

G

Gael (adj. Gaelic), the name of the population of Ireland, particularly those who adhere(d) to the Irish language and native culture. The word appears originally as Goídel and is a loanword from Welsh Gwyddel, 'Irishman', which itself has a pejorative meaning (Welsh gwydd, 'wild, savage'). Irish tradition derived the name from Gaedheal Glas, a grandson of Noah who fashioned the Irish (Gaedhilg, 'Gaelic') language from the best elements of the 72 languages spoken at the time of the tower of Babel. It appears to have been employed as an ethnic term by the Irish themselves at least by the 8th century, when it first appears in the *annals, and it came to replace *Érainn, which was previously employed to describe the people of Ireland. The *Viking incursions further stimulated the use of 'Gael' as an ethnic designation to contrast the native Irish with the foreign invaders. The term was employed specifically of the Irish as an ethno-linguistic group, while Érainn remained the designation of the island itself. JPM

Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), founded 1884 by Michael Cusack ( 1847-1906). Cusack, a teacher and one-time enthusiast for cricket and rugby, had become disillusioned with the social exclusiveness of existing sporting bodies and the association of sport and gambling, and was also convinced that the spread of English games was destroying national morale. The GAA from the start attracted substantial *Fenian support; there are claims that Cusack was in fact only the instrument of an *IRB initiative. By 1886 Fenians dominated the executive and Cusack himself had been ousted from the secretaryship. Open Fenian domination provoked the hostility of the Catholic clergy, especially when the GAA supported * Parnell in 1890-1, and membership slumped badly in the 1890s. From 1901, however, a new generation of IRB-affiliated leaders rebuilt the GAA as an openly nationalist but not explicitly revolutionary movement that could attract clerical endorsement and broad support. Rules excluding from the association anyone who played or even watched 'imported games', and all members of the police and armed forces, quietly dropped during the difficult 1890s, were reinstated during 1902-3.

The GAA was thus part of the *'new nationalism' of the years before 1916. But it was also part of the sudden growth of organized spectator sport seen everywhere in the British Isles from the late 19th century. By the early 1900s attendances of 20,000 at the most important fixtures had become commonplace and entrance charges had replaced affiliation fees from clubs as the main source of revenue. Railway companies provided special trains for important fixtures, and *newspapers gave wide coverage. The purchase in 1913 of a site at Jones's Road, Dublin, subsequently developed as Croke Park, provided Gaelic games with a national stadium. The games themselves also changed their character. Athletics, originally the GAA's main concern, declined in prominence, and from 1922 was to be handed over to the National Athletics and Cycling Association. Among the team games that now took pride of place, *Gaelic football overshadowed the much older but, for spectators, less easily followed *hurling. In both games rules and playing styles were modified to emphasize skill and tactics rather than strength or aggression.

Despite the short-term losses inflicted by large- scale disruption during the *Anglo-Irish War and *Civil War, the GAA retained and consolidated its place as a major part of sporting life in independent Ireland and, for Catholics, in Northern Ireland. The ban on watching or playing 'foreign' games was lifted in 1971. The exclusion of members of the British security forces, though contentious, remains in force at the time of writing.

Mandle, W. F., The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish Nationalist Politics 1884-1924 ( 1987).

Gaelic cultural revival. The literate culture of pre-*Norman Ireland, *Latin and vernacular, sacred and secular, was a creation of the monastic schools. It suffered severely in the *Cistercian reform of the 12th century, which eventually came

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The Oxford Companion to Irish History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Advisers ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contributors xiii
  • Note to the Reader xvii
  • A 1
  • B 33
  • C 66
  • D 133
  • E 167
  • F 183
  • G 212
  • H 233
  • I 254
  • K 282
  • L 292
  • M 333
  • N 377
  • O 397
  • P 424
  • Q 469
  • R 471
  • S 495
  • T 532
  • U 557
  • V 577
  • W 582
  • Y 601
  • Z 603
  • Maps 605
  • Subject Index 613
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